Wikiclaim:How to word a claim
Please note that this guide is very much a work in progress! (As are any other guides on Wikiclaim at this point.) Users are encouraged to discuss changes in the talk page.
See Also: What belongs in Wikiclaim?
Words to Avoid[edit source]
This is a tricky subject, since for any word there may be a good use for it somewhere. We don't want to outright ban any words. However, it may be useful to make a short list of words that probably indicate a problem with a claim's wording.
Words that indicate Argument[edit source]
A claim is not an argument. Some words likely indicate an argument, and probably don't belong in a page title:
See a claim is not an argument for more information.
Try to Avoid Numbers[edit source]
A statistic isn't a claim. A statistic is evidence for a claim. If a claim has numbers in it, it may be too specific.
Suppose one study says that 16 percent of U.S. prisoners are serving time on drug charges and another study says that 20 percent are. If you make a claim "16 percent of U.S. prisoners are serving time on drug charges" then the second study is actually evidence against the claim. Also, numbers often have a tendency to fluctuate from year to year and numbers from studies normally aren't exact, but have confidence intervals.
Replace "X%" with
- "about half", or "half" (colloquially, "half" and "about half" are the same anyways)
- "a significant portion/percent/etc. of"
- "The vast majority of"
|Instead of||Maybe try|
|85 percent of suicides with a gun in the U.S. are by men||Most suicides with a gun in the U.S. are by men|
|Firearms account for almost 50% of all suicides in the U.S.||Firearms account for almost half of all suicides in the U.S.|
|Two-thirds of gun deaths in the U.S. are suicides||Most gun deaths in the U.S. are suicides|
|Of homeless San Franciscans who came from outside San Francisco, 22% say it was for homeless services and benefits||Of homeless San Franciscans who came from outside San Francisco, a minority say it was for homeless services and benefits|
Absolute Figures[edit source]
Absolute figures are a bit trickier. One option is to convert the figure into a rate by comparing the figure to another, relevant figure.
|Instead of||Maybe try|
|33,000 gun deaths take place in the U.S. every year||Firearms account for almost half of all suicides in the U.S.
In the U.S., the number of annual firearm deaths is comparable to the number of motor vehicle deaths
|The San Francisco homeless population is almost 7,000
The San Francisco homeless shelter system has 1,200 beds
|The San Francisco homeless shelter system does not have enough beds|
In the second example, the two claims can become in-text evidence points for the new claim rather than stand-alone claims themselves.
Claim Polarity[edit source]
Should a claim be worded so that more evidence is for it? Against it? So that evidence is balanced?
The purpose of Wikiclaim is to provide the evidence for and against claims. Not to take a stance. So at first thought, it shouldn't really matter.
However, on Wikiclaim we sometimes use claims to back other claims. If a claim is used as evidence for another claim, it probably should be worded so that most of it's evidence is "for".
Also, for a claim with an extreme degree of polarity, sometimes evidence in favor of the polarity is against the degree. See Degree of a Claim.
See Also: The middle way
Degree of a Claim[edit source]
Modifier words can increase or decrease the strength of a claim. For example:
- X is responsible for Y
- X is partly responsible for Y
- X is solely responsible for Y
- X is largely responsible for Y
- X is one of the primary drivers for Y
Which to choose? Three possible resolutions are:
- Write title so that more evidence is FOR
- Write title so that evidence is best split for/against
- Write multiple pages (ie. both the previous solutions, co-existing), with see also links
As of this writing, there is no definitive policy for which resolution to take. Please use your best discretion. Again note that if a claim is used as evidence for another claim, it probably should be worded so that most of it's evidence is "for".
For a claim with an extreme degree of polarity, sometimes evidence in favor of the polarity is against the degree. Consider a claim that "The vast majority of Sneeches have star bellies". Evidence that 65% of Sneeches have star bellies would be against this claim, despite being evidence for the claim that "Most Sneeches have star bellies". It may make sense to change the claim to the weaker degree "most".